LOS ANGELES – Tayshaun Prince didn’t sign with the Timberwolves as a 35-year-old free agent last summer intending to play 30 minutes a night like he once did in his youth, but he did so anyway for the eighth time this season in Wednesday night’s unexpected 108-102 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Wolves’ young stars — namely Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine — provided the offense that ended a five-game losing streak and delivered only the team’s fourth victory in 23 games.
Prince offered the defensive performance that did the same.
Promising his teammates Wednesday morning that he was willing to do whatever was necessary, Prince chased Clippers J.J. Redick — the NBA’s leader in three-point accuracy at 48.6 percent entering the game — down the court and around screens all night at Staples Center.
Until Wednesday, Redick had done more than his part to lift a Clippers team that had gone 15-3 since injured All-Star Blake Griffin last played on Christmas Day. This time, Redick made one of nine shots — including one of four threes attempted — and scored a mere five points.
“He’s playing a lot of minutes, but we asked him, ‘Can those legs chase J.J.?’ because J.J. probably is one of the best moving without the basketball,” Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell said, “and he told our guys I’m going to give you everything I got.”
It was the Wolves’ first road victory since they won at Brooklyn on Dec. 20 and their first this season on the second night of back-to-back games, and it sent them home winners from a four-game trip after losing at Utah, Portland and in Los Angeles to the Lakers.
It also came one night after retiring superstar Kobe Bryant scored 38 points and the Lakers ended a franchise-record-tying 10-game losing streak by beating the Wolves 119-115.
“No one gave us a chance to beat that team the way they’ve been playing,” Mitchell said of the Clippers.
Wiggins followed Tuesday’s 30-point performance in a shooting guard duel with Bryant by scoring 31 on Wednesday, the second time this season he has reached 30 points in back-to-back games. He scored 21 of those 31 in the first half. Towns missed his first six shots from the floor and then made his next six on his way to his 27th double-double — 17 points, 12 rebounds — this season.
LaVine scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, when the Clippers trailed by eight points with 4 ½ minutes left, twice tied the score in the final 2:20 and then became the team that made the deciding mistakes in the final seconds.
Chris Paul’s untimely technical foul for protesting an official’s call enabled the Wolves to build a four-point lead with 20.6 seconds left, and two seconds later, Redick lost the ball out of bounds after Prince harassed him, as he had done almost all game.
“He’s a specialist,” Wiggins said of Prince. “That’s what he does.”
And this time, Prince had done what he assured his teammates he would do.
“He did a hell of a job,” point guard Ricky Rubio said after the game. “This morning he stepped up and said he was taking that matchup. That was the key of the game.”
Towns, LaVine chosen
The NBA on Thursday shook up its All-Star Saturday skills challenge by naming big men Towns, Anthony Davis of New Orleans, DeMarcus Cousins of Sacramento and Draymond Green of Golden State to compete alongside four guards: Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, Portland’s C.J. McCollum, Houston’s Patrick Beverley and the Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson.
The league also announced LaVine will defend his slam-dunk title against Denver’s Will Barton, Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Orlando’s Aaron Gordon that same night, Feb. 13 in Toronto.